Understanding our planet will be a fundamental challenge for the scientific community over the next century. Almost every practical aspect of society—population, environment, economics, politics—is and will be increasingly impacted by our relationship with the Earth. Harvard’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) is dedicated to facing these challenges and offers outstanding opportunities for students who wish to pursue graduate studies.
The department features a world-class faculty, state-of-the art laboratories, instrumentation, and facilities, and a friendly, collaborative culture that is committed to the education and training of its graduate students. Whether you are engaged in benchwork, conducting field research, or simply enjoying coffee and cookies in the student lounge, you will find EPS to be an exciting and engaging experience.
Our graduate students enter with diverse undergraduate preparation, with majors in Earth sciences as well as applied math, biology, chemistry, engineering and physics. Graduate study and research within EPS are equally diverse, and include geology, geobiology, geochemistry, geophysics, physics and chemistry of climate, planetary science, tectonics, and more. In addition to the collaborative exchange with other Harvard departments and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, students may supplement their studies by cross-registering in other Harvard graduate schools or at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Many students exposed for the first time to the Earth sciences find that this field provides the combination they’ve been looking for: one that is sophisticated, scientifically challenging, interdisciplinary, and offers societal relevance.
Requirements for admission are highly flexible and each application is judged on its own merits. Students with backgrounds in applied math, biology, chemistry, Earth sciences, engineering, physics, and related fields are strongly encouraged to apply. When applying, applicants should list up to three EPS faculty whose research fields are closest to their interests. For lists of faculty working in specific research areas, please browse our study and research areas.
Entering graduate students are expected to arrive with an appropriate math preparation depending on their field of study. Students in geophysics, climate, ocean and atmospheric dynamics, and other math-intensive research areas are expected to have successfully completed applied math courses to the level of ordinary and partial differential equations. Students in less mathematically-oriented research areas are expected to have successfully completed basic college-level calculus and linear algebra at the level of Harvard’s applied mathematics or mathematics courses: Math 21A (Multivariable Calculus) and Math 21B (Linear Algebra and Differential Equations). If not, these should be taken in addition to the department's math requirement, and incoming students should be aware that this represents a significant additional commitment. Students are expected, in the course of graduate work, to complete the second and third year of college mathematics (intermediate and advanced calculus and differential equations). Students with a strong math and physics background doing theoretical work are expected to take higher-level graduate mathematics courses.
Once enrolled, all graduate students are provided generous financial support, including research and teaching assistantships, full tuition, and a research allowance. Prospective students are encouraged to apply for outside funding from agencies such as the National Science Foundation prior to gaining admission.
Current undergraduates interested in pursuing an AM degree should contact the department for more information.